Tag Archive for: Kandy

While the rail network that spreads across Sri Lanka covers some of the most important destinations, it is still very limited in connections between the main touristic spots.

We initially decided to travel from Elle to Arugam Bay but due to hustle of finding a convenient route in terms of travel time and expenses, we felt more pleased by the idea to travel to the northeast coast and visit on the way the architectural wonders in the heart of the country.

Our plan was to continue going north following the railway network, which meant returning to Kandy, where we reserved more time to explore the city, as we didn’t have a proper chance to do so during our first stop here. Read more about our time in Kandy.

An interesting aspect about trains in Sri Lanka is the difficulty to get a seat. Reserved seats (available for first and second class only) are most of the time sold out and unreserved tickets usually “reserve” travelers the chance to taste the authentic experience of being trapped and squished for hours between luggage and people. We had an uncomfortable experience when traveling from Colombo to Kandy. It was interesting and somehow fun in the beginning, but three hours later we knew it wasn’t something we wanted to try again soon.

Dambulla in northern-center of Sri Lanka

After failing to get reserved seats for the train to Trincomalee, we took a morning bus to Dambulla, a small city but an important access gate to almost any place in the country through a complex network of buses that uses the city as one of the main connection points.

We spent only three days in Dambulla and decided to use the last hours of the arrival day to visit the famous cave temple (also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla) situated at the entrance in the city. We were part of the last group of visitors allowed to climb the stairs of the temple, shortly before sunset, which we found very convenient and pleasant in the absence of the larger groups. When visiting Buddhist temples, a proper dress code must be followed. I was wearing shorts that day, which is not accepted at the entrance in any temple, but the person at the gate was kind enough to borrow me a scarf to cover my legs… the gesture was nice, although a pink scarf didn’t really reflect my preferences in choosing colors to wear.



The temple includes a series of chambers, which represent divisions of a bigger cave filled with statues of Buddha. At the end of our visit, we were rewarded with a spectacular view from the height of the rock on top of which the temple is placed while the golden light of the last hour of the day left its last traces on the sky.



We returned to the city, searching for a place to dine and planned to get an early sleep as we wanted to catch the sunrise on the top of the Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya.

The Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya

At hour arrival in Dambulla, a friendly tuk-tuk driver offered us a tempting cheap ride to our accommodation in return for the chance to propose us a sunrise tour to Sigiriya and back, which we happily accepted. We agreed on a price of 15000 rupees, which we could have easily negotiated, but given the early departure and the distance to cover, we thought it was a fair price to pay.



At 4 o’clock in the morning the tuk-tuk driver picked us up in front of the hostel and we drove for more than 20 km in complete darkness till the entrance of the rock temple, where we were asked to pay an entrance fee of 500 rupees. A few other people arrived at the same time and together we started climbing up the stairs to the top of the rock. The Pidurangala Rock is less impressive than the Lion Rock, but surely less touristic, which made it our choice for a spectacular sunrise spot. The hike to the top is less than 30 minutes long and, while not very difficult, we advise wearing proper shoes as some parts are harder to climb and in the presence of humidity it can be very slippery.

The sunrise at the top was truly spectacular and the view over the surroundings beautiful to experience. And to make the journey more complete, after the return at parking space, our driver took us to the shore of the lake in the vicinity of the two rocks, from where we could watch their reflection of the water.



We returned to Dambulla in time for a late breakfast and a long nap after.

On the third day we were planning to visit more of the Ancient city of Sigiriya and extend our day-tour with a visit of Polonnaruwa, but in the following morning we realized how tiring the last days through the country have been  and how much our energy levels dropped, so we turned our plans of exploring the surroundings into plans to rest and recover. Polonnaruwa will have to wait until our future visit to Sri Lanka.

A direct bus from Dambulla to Trincomalee brought us a day later to the seaside on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka, a country so small in size but so rich in experiences.

See more pictures from Dambulla and Sigiriya here.

As our first stay in Kandy was very short, we left a bit sad for not having stayed a bit longer, but at that time we did not know that we would come back soon again.

Why did we come back then? Well, our plan was to go to Arugam Bay, on the east coast of Sri Lanka, for a volunteer project after visiting Ella, but the project was canceled, so we decided to travel more north to explore Dambulla and after go to the seaside in Trincomalee, where we were supposed to meet with my cousin, that was coming to Sri Lanka for holiday. The best connection was via Kandy and therefore, after a few days in Ella, we took the train back to our previous destination. Again, we couldn’t reserve any seat, but on the morning of the departure we were told that there were places available, so for a second time, we could enjoy the scenery along the way without being in a crowded carriage.


Sri Dalada Maligawa

We stayed during our 2nd time in Kandy in a lovely homestay, a bit outside the city but easily reachable by walking. Our host recommended us to go to the ceremony in the Tempe of Tooth, which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. It plays an important role in the country, as it is believed that whoever holds the relic has the governance of the country.


Due to the importance of the temple, every day a ceremony is held to show that important relic, but taking part in the ceremony means sharing the experience with large crowds, especially during the evening. The visiting hours are 6.30am, 9.30am and 6.30pm. We went to the one in the evening and after buying the most expensive ticket (7,99 € for foreigners) that we ever bought in Sri Lanka, we entered and took off our shoes while we were welcomed by drums and music. It was extremely crowded with locals and tourists.

We followed the line like everybody else, but the moment when we passed the relic was so short that we did not even have time to realize what we just saw. Honestly, I kind of regret going there as it has high importance for the many local people who come there beautifully dressed in white clothes to witness the ceremony and to pray, but we didn’t feel very festive inside the temple. There were already many locals and on top of that having also the tourists really felt like being surrounded by too many people, not to mention that the entrance price was very high.

The Big Buddha

One of the things we enjoyed doing in Kandy was visiting the White Big Buddha statue overlooking the city. It is a short hike to the top of the hill where the Buddha stands and at the entrance, you have to take off your shoes and leave them there for a little price, which is considered a donation. We found it a bit much paying for shoes and the entrance, but note that in Sri Lanka it is normal to pay at the entrance in any temple.



There is a lot to do and to discover in Kandy, but we decided to skip some of the „attractions“. We did not visit any of the tea plantations as we visited one in Ella. We also heard that the botanical garden would be nice but we’re much more overwhelmed by the natural beauty and the tea fields, which we considered enough not to go to the garden.

Food in Kandy

As we already mentioned, at the Hela Bojun Hala food stalls we found a lot of delicious food for fair prices, compared to Ella, but there were also plenty of other restaurants around We also found good local coffee places and tons of fruits and fresh vegetables at the local market.



When we were in Sri Lanka in August, it was the season for all kinds of fruits and in no other country we found such cheap and delicious fruits like here. The only thing that we always found stressful was that in Sri Lanka (except Colombo) almost every place closed early, around 09.00pm

Here you will find more pictures from Kandy.

We finally arrived in Sri Lanka. We got our visa extension and were already excited about exploring this beautiful country. So, after spending only one night in Colombo, we went straight to the train station early in the following morning. A local bus took us from our accommodation to the Fort (the city center in Colombo) where we planned to board the train to Kandy.

If you want to book a train seat in Sri Lanka you need to be fast and plan it way in advance. As we usually travel spontaneously, we could only buy tickets for the second or third class. The third class is usually very crowded and we knew that we might not get a seat in the second class either, but we were optimistic until we saw the train….

Train Ride from Colombo to Kandy

I have never seen a train that was so full, not even in India. It was incredible how many people were inside: students, workers, businessmen, backpackers, families and, of course, a lot of luggage. As we left very early at 06.00am, we arrived in Kandy around 10.00am and could go directly to explore the city.

We really wanted to do the famous train ride from Kandy to Ella two days later, so we decided to ask directly at the train station if there were seats available. We did not want to have the same experience again, mostly for the reason that the train ride this time would take around 7.00 hours. Unfortunately, we were not lucky and our mood was a bit down when thinking about the upcoming train ride that we expected to be a highlight of our stay in Sri Lanka.

Kandy City

Like in most cities in Sri Lanka, life happens around the clock tower: buses, dogs, food sellers, Tuk-Tuks. Everything and everybody is rushing.



We got caught by the vibe of Sri Lanka and enjoyed the new experience to the maximum, located in central Sri Lanka and is surrounded by mountains and tea plantations. We started our sightseeing in the same morning, after our arrival, and explored the local market and walked around the Kandy Lake, passing the famous Buddhist temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa). At the lake, we could admire different kinds of birds.

Our best place to eat was Hela Bojun Hala, a little food market that has several branches in Sri Lanka and where they serve a variety of Sri Lankan dishes and sweets for very low prices. We found it to be the best opportunity to try local foods.


Lucky moment

On our way back to the Hostel we decided to go back to the train station as we have read about a Luxury Train going to Ella (or Elle how they say in Sri Lanka). We did not consider this option earlier because we thought we could not afford it anyway and we wanted to have an authentic experience by traveling with the regular train.

We came at the right moment. The counter was about to close when we asked about the availability. There were still 4 available places, only that the train would leave the following morning at 6.00am. The price was the same as for the normal 1st class, which was much higher compared to 2nd or 3rd classes but we would have had a guaranteed seat. The only problem was that we suddenly had to change our plan and stay one day less in Kandy.

We decided to book the tickets and did not regret it. We found out that this train runs only during the weekend and is an additional train, as also many locals take the ride to Ella, especially on weekends.

So we said goodbye to Kandy, but only for a short time, as we would return there soon. Here you will reach the article for our second stay in Kandy.